I’m good, man. I’m just on my grind in the studio, doing my thing.
How have things been going for you since signing to Streetsweepers?
It’s going good. I’m just on the grind now. The easy part was signing. Now it’s about being on the grind and being in the lab trying to make those classics. That’s what I’m focused on now. It’s a real good feeling.
What did it mean to you when Kay Slay first gave you props?
It meant a lot from me following Kay Slay and meeting him in that way. He’s one of the hottest DJ’s and he’s an original b-boy. It’s a good thing. I respect Slay a lot and it was good hearing what he said, especially since it was coming from a legend.
You did a lot of showcases to get noticed. Did you ever reach a point where that got frustrating?
Nah. For me, there was never too much frustration. I’m a humble dude, but I’m also a lion. I knew it was going to get done one way or another. I was just trying to get heard. At the same time, I was just staying on my grizzly with it. An MC isn’t going to be successful if he doesn’t go out there and give his all in everything he does. I’m a workhorse and I want to put that work in. I know I deserve to get that chance. It wasn’t frustrating. It was more of a thing of putting that work in. I’m always up for the challenge.
The main perception of showcases is that a lot of them are crooked. Did you ever experience anything funny?
We went through it a little bit. We knew what was bullshit. At the same time, you also never know who you’re going to meet at the showcases either. It’s like what happened with Slay. Slay was there and you never know what’s going to happen. Everybody’s trying to eat and you don’t always know what it is. They have to do what they do to get their money. I went there to make my mark. No matter what show I got in, I knew that when I went there, they would leave remembering me. I approached each show like they paid me to perform. I went in and left my mark. After I paid once, I never paid again. They were calling me to do the joints.
You also did four showcases where Kay Slay was there. That had to take some patience.
I’ve always been patient. I figured I’ve been patient this long, why not be patient for a little longer. Everything is a learning process. I’m a student of hip-hop. I know how to be patient. Even if I’m just in the studio making music, I’m happy with that. I’ve been through a hard life and the struggle and I don’t glorify that in my raps. I’m not one of those jokers. I’m going to let my street status speak for itself. Music is not a thing to get frustrated about. I just love doing it. I love music in general.
How has your plan for 2007 changed since signing to Kay Slay’s Streetsweepers?
I’m going to do whatever Slay wants me to do. Slay doesn’t treat everybody like he treats Papoose. Pap is remarkable and he did seventeen mixtapes. He doesn’t expect me to do that. He just wants to put me in the right position. Even though I got songs for days, I’m doing what he wants. I’m just rolling with the program. Whatever he’s got planned for me, I’m going to run with it.
Papoose put a lot of faith in Kay Slay. How much faith do you have in Kay Slay?
100%. That’s a no-brainer. The man is hip-hop. I respect that dude like crazy. Everything he’s been feeding me and the things we’ve been working on, he knows what I want. We already got that chemistry. He feeds me the right shit. You have to trust that man. He’s a legend. I put 100% faith in that dude.
How long were you on your grind before signing with Kay Slay?
I’ve been on my grind for about eight to ten years. It’s been a minute. I’m not a young boy. I’ve been on my grind for a minute.
What’s the best thing you did to get yourself noticed?
I think just being aggressive. It started in my hood and I learned from there. Then I started to break out in other places to get known in other places. In my hood is where it started at. I was always doing my own shows and highlighting myself and running people down. It was staying on the grind. Then I dropped an independent joint and I sold 3,500 units in a city that’s only eight square-miles. Nobody ever did that in my hood. That placed a mark on me. I put Camden on my back. Then I took it to Philly and everybody was in Philly was saying, “You have to hear this Spanish kid.” Then I hooked up with Frank Urban, my manager, and we wanted to spread it even more to New York. We were trying to keep it rolling. I was trying to go city to city. That’s how that whole thing started.
What was it like growing up in Camden?
It was fucked up. It was fucked up like anybody’s hood. Anybody who’s lived in the hood is going to have some type of struggle. Like a lot of stories you hear in hip-hop, you always hear some bullshit. Cats glorify things to give themselves a name. I grew up with a single Latin mother and seven brothers and sisters. We were deep. I was out there. I learned a lot from the streets. I learned from the streets and I’ve been through some bad stuff that I don’t have to talk about. I just thank God today that I’m here doing music.
How important are people like yourself and NBA player Dajuan Wagner to Camden?
Real important. Look at these younger kids who don’t have shit. The hood needs those icons to make some of these kids do the right thing rather than doing the wrong. Let the kids know there are other ways out of the hood. They see Dajaun or me and it makes them feel good about themselves. I do the school tours already and give out $5,000 in toys a year. I don’t even ask the city for money because the city is fucked up. These kids already look up to me and ‘Juanny. It feels good if you can change somebody’s life and make them do the right thing. What these kids need right now is guidance.
How much talent, hip-hop-wise, is there in Camden?
There’s a lot of talent. I got a small camp myself, but there’s a lot of talent in Camden. We just need a voice to make Camden known so niggas can start noticing the talent in Camden. I think I’m that voice to bring out that talent so they can notice how much talent we got in the hood.
You call yourself the Spanish Frank White. Do people look at you differently because of your race?
I consider myself an MC. I don’t think it has nothing to do with being Spanish. I think if you’re a nice MC, you’re just a nice MC. If a cat can get on a mic and spit, he shouldn’t have to be looked at differently because he’s Spanish or black. I’ve had a lot of people compare me to Pun. Pun, to me, is one of the best Latin rappers ever. Ain’t nobody touching that dude. For me to be a Latin MC, being compared to him is an honor, but I just want to be an MC. When I make it to the top, mention me with names like Nas and Jay-Z. Don’t just mention me as a Latin MC. Mention me as an MC.
While the Big Pun comparisons are great, do they ever get tiring?
A little bit. At the same time, to be compared to Pun’s status is refreshing. I don’t want everybody to keep on thinking that it’s a Latin thing. Compare me to cats like Big L and cats that did it big out there who aren’t Latin, because it’s hip-hop music at the end of the day. Look at me as being a hip-hop artist or an MC. It does get frustrating, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with.
On your freestyle “Young, Spanish and Gifted,” you said you didn’t have to be a Spanish rapper who goes South to blow up. What did you mean by that line?
You have a lot of East Coast cats following the South now. I think they’re just losing focus on what hip-hop is. Everybody feels like they have to be doing this dance music to get on and for the radio to play their hits. You don’t necessarily have to do that. I think MC’s from the East really have to stay to themselves and just be original. Originality takes you farther than following the steps of these cats who have a lot of lyrical ability. I think I speak for a lot of cats on that note. A lot of cats are doing what other people are doing and I don’t need to do that to get on or to get to a higher status. I’m going to do this the way the hip-hop founders meant for this to be done. I’m going to be real and I’m going to be East Coast. That’s the element I’m bringing to the game.
Does being signed to Streetsweepers ever add any pressure to live up to what Papoose has created or to drop music as often as Pap does?
I’m never going to feel that. Me and Pap haven’t really kicked it like that or been together, but I’ve never felt like that. Pap is a plus to the game right now. Pap is Pap and Big Lou is Big Lou. I’m not going to try to do what Pap did. I’m not going to follow that path. I’m here to do what I do and that’s to make classics. I’m going to follow my own path and Pap is going to do it his way. Pap is a plus to the game and it’s good to hear Pap because Pap is hip-hop. I’m happy for Pap for everything that he’s doing and I’m glad I got him in my camp. He’s going to keep me on my toes and keep my records hot. It’s just a plus.
What’s your focus heading into 2007?
Right now, I’m just trying to get some things done that me and Slay are working on. I just want to get the project done that we’re working on and keep on moving from there. I’m trying to keep myself fresh. I’m more focused on staying in the studio and knocking out these hits. I want to make noise before I start making my album. Whatever God wants me to be at the time, that’s what I’m going to be, but I’m definitely going to be on my grizzly.
What advice would you offer to up-and-coming MC’s trying to get noticed?
Stay on your grind. The game is hard. If you put in that work, don’t wait for it to come to you because it’s never going to happen. Go out there and get it. Get on your bike and ride that motherfucker. Go do as many shows as you can and get as much exposure as you can. Get on your grizzly. It’s not about going to the studio and playing your CD for your cats in your circle. It’s deeper than that. Go places and get seen. Stay on your grind. That’s the main thing.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Be on the lookout for Big Lou, the Spanish Frank White. It’s history right now. I’m a legend in the making. Remember that. I’m going to give you nothing but fire. Latinos are going platinum again. Be on the lookout.